The Africa Cup of Nations will revert back to its traditional slot in January and February next year to avoid the rainy season, the football federation of host country Cameroon (FECACOOT) said on Wednesday.
“The 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) will be played in Cameroon from Jan. 9 to Feb. 6 in 2021,” said FECAFOOT on Twitter. “The date has been changed for meteorological reasons at Cameroon‘s request.”
The tournament, played every two years, was switched to June-July last year when it was played in Egypt, avoiding disruption to the European club season but provoking concerns about high temperatures.
The latest switch is likely to anger European clubs, in particular Premier League leaders Liverpool whose team includes Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane in attack, two of Africa’s top players, plus Naby Keita in midfield.
However, the new timing will avoid a clash with FIFA’s revamped 24-team Club World Cup to be played in China in June and July 2021.
The AFCON was due to be played immediately afterwards, meaning that players who took part in both competitions would get almost no rest in the summer and would return late for pre-season training in Europe.
The AFCON was traditionally held in January and February until CAF decided to alter the timing in 2017 when it also increased the number of participating teams from 16 to 24.
Cameroon was originally due to stage the 2019 AFCON but was stripped of hosting rights the previous November by CAF due to delays in preparations and security concerns. It subsequently agreed to host the 2021 tournament instead.
Ivory Coast, who had been due to stage the 2021 competition, were awarded the 2023 hosting rights at the expense of Guinea, which will now stage the contest in 2025.